1965 the year I was born our country had been involved in war in Viet Nam for almost a decade, social unrest was growing, the civil rights movement was building momentum, and the war on poverty was months old.
How does that time compare with what we are experiencing today?
Like many of my generation, and those younger, I have no idea what the world was like, though I attempt to obtain the perspective of parents, relatives, and acquaintances to better understand and know the history, issues, divide, and sentiment of the past.
Images of Kennedy, King, Johnson, illustrate this time in history and then there was Shriver, who I had the honor to meet a few times between 2002 and 2005.
While at the Peace Corps and later at OEO, Sargent Shriver and his team started programs that changed the world and led millions out of poverty. Programs like Head Start, VISTA, Job Corps, Legal Services for the Poor, Neighborhood Health Services and Community Action helped communities by literally taking Federal funds and pursuing federal sponsored dissent through organized means using the law, both radical and unprecedented.
All told, the programs mentioned lifted almost 15 million Americans out of poverty and changed the world. He did not do it alone, but he is credited with bringing the issues, the people, and the resources to solve on the problems of the times.
Today we see many of the same images; the conflict, rage, war, and rebellion, poverty, hopelessness, and fear. Our friends and neighbors have begun to express their unhappiness and their desire for more immediate change. Where is Shriver? He passed in January of 2011. Where are the programs and the big ideas? Where is the unbridled optimism to counter the cynicism?
I ask you to all think what we can do in an hour a day to make a change or in a day of a week to support and stabilize our society in such uncertain times.
How can we wage peace? Can we too be guided by beliefs powerful enough to change the world?
As we grapple with these national issues here in Oakland, can you help to promote a dialogue of progress? Can you seek the action to forge ahead, reach out and include everyone along the path, and seek the new frontiers?
“Yes you can!” The late Shriver was quoted “You have such a chance. Oh, how I wish I were you!”